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Adoption Disruptions Please feel free to contact me, Dr Vince Berger, at Adoption Services if you have any questions or if we can help you in any way Adoption Disruptions
Adoption Disruptions

Adoption Disruptions

An adoption disruption or dissolution is a family's nightmare, but they can and do happen. By being careful you may be able to reduce your risk of a disruption or dissolution but you cannot totally eliminate the possibility.


The term disruption is used to describe a situations where a child is placed into the custody of an adoptive family with the intent to adopt but, due to a change of mind by the birth mother, birth father, or adoptive family, the adoption does not take place and the child is returned the birth parent, to foster care, or placement with new adoptive parents.

In every U.S. state the birth parents can not irrevocably terminate their parental rights until some time after the baby is born.  Until the birth parents rights have been ended (called termination, surrender, or relinquishment) they are the parents and, if the child has been placed for adoption, they can ask for the baby to be returned.  This is the most common type of disruption found in private adoptions and private agency adoptions.

A disruption can also occur if, prior to the finalization of the adoption, the adopting parents do not want to proceed with the adoption.  This is most commonly found in state-sponsored adoption programs.  In over 20 years of working with almost 1000 private agency adoptions, I (Dr. Berger) have had this happen only one time.  And that was due to a fatal accident involving the adopting mother and the adopting father traveled and could not raise the child as a single parent.

It is difficult to get an accurate picture of the frequency of adoption disruptions since many private adoptions result in disruptions but do not appear in statistical reports.  However, in general it appears that in the U.S. the rate of adoption disruption runs between 10%-25% depending on the population that is being evaluated.

You can reduce your risk of a disruption by working with a licensed adoption agency who in turn works with an attorney that specializes in adoption.  This can help assure the process proceeds as smoothly as possible and that a full range of services is available to you, the birth mother, birth father, and their families.


The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that ends after it is legally finalized, resulting in the child's return to (or entry into) foster care or placement with new adoptive parents.

The frequency and accuracy of adoption dissolution rates is harder to evaluated than adoption disruptions.  It appears that adoption dissolutions occur somewhere between 1%- 10% with the rate being at the higher end in adoptions that have involved special needs children and children from a state's foster care system. Three factors contributing to these higher rates are the emotional and physical demands that these children place on the family, the lack of information about where and how to find needed services, and the cost of services.

You can reduce your risk of a dissolution by carefully evaluating the behavioral and health history of the child you are planning to adopt and by educating yourself about the impact of special needs and behavioral problems.

Data Sources for Disruptions and Dissolutions

No national data are collected on the number of disruptions and dissolutions or the percentages of adoptive placements that end in disruption or dissolution. Most of the data that are collected are for adoptions from public agencies or those under contract from public agencies.

No national studies are available on disruptions or dissolutions of intercountry adoptions or adoptions from private sources.

There are no national data collected on the number of independent, private, or tribal adoptions.

You may find the Child Welfare Information Gateway article Adoption Disruption and Dissolution: Numbers and Trends interesting.

Additional Adoption Resources

For additional help with an adoption disruption or dissolution you can find a list of adoption agencies in your state and neighboring states at the link Domestic Adoption Agencies.

If you need or want some specific personal advice contact your state child welfare agency or state adoption contact or adoption attorney.  You can also call Dr. Vince Berger, a psychologist and adoption professional.

Please visit our home page to read about our commitment to assist adoptive parents like you as well as pregnant women and birth parents.

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Adoption Consultant Resource

Why You Need an Adoption Consultant

There are many risks when you go to adopt a child including losing a child after you have already taken them home (referred to as a disruption), loosing all of the money you have invested in the adoption if the birth mother changes her mind, or finding that there are previously unknown or undisclosed fees that may appear. Dr Berger has helped thousands of  adopting families with domestic adoptions and international adoptions and he is available to assist you no matter what type of adoption you chose to pursue and regardless of whether you work with an adoption agency, facilitator or adoption attorney.  He can help you save your  time, effort and money in helping you to decide what routes to take and the best way to achieve your goal of adopting a child. He can help reduce your risks and potential pain and can help you avoid many of the problems and pitfalls found in the adoption process. You can read and download his free adoption manual or, for more information on how he can help you, please visit his Adoption Consultant link.

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